Marginalized Voices of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

From the October 2013 PNL #828

by Phil Agnew and Sofia Campos

Editor’s Note: While the 50th anniversary of the March On Washington was a commemoration of the civil rights legacy, it was also a Democratic Party event with little of the subversiveness of the original March. Many prophetic voices doing critical grassroots, transformational activism were excluded at the last minute for fear that their messages might be deemed too radical. Two such voices were those of Phil Agnew, one of the leaders of the DREAM Defenders, and that of Sofia Campos, an undocumented activist with United We Dream, a group which has been pushing for immigration reform. Despite being snubbed, they decided to give the speeches they would have liked to give anyway.

Phil Agnew 

“2 minutes”

Phil Agnew delivering his poem, “2 minutes”, the day after
the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Source:
YouTube/Dream Defenders Channel

By the time we finish another black boy will lay bleeding in the streets of Chicago and as we rest our heads tonight 300,000 of our veterans lay homeless, and I want to explain how the hate we spread abroad is the reason that hatred washes on our shores…but I only have two minutes.

And, I could tell you that Philadelphia just closed 23 of its schools at the same time it builds a $400 million state of the art prison and that North Carolina and Florida continue to silence its citizens at the ballot box- but I only have two minutes.

I could tell you how as we celebrate Dr. King’s Dream, over 400,000 of our immigrant brothers and sisters languish away in privately owned detention camps…and how we still find our queer brothers and sisters imprisoned in the shadows of closets—but I only have two minutes.

I’d tell you how our mothers, sisters, wives and daughters still earn less, have no control over their bodies, and are traded and trafficked like slaves…or that it’s easier for someone to buy a gun and put it to their head than it is to diagnose the illness within it. But I only have two minutes.

If there was time, I’d tell you that millions of young people and queer people and poor people and people of color are asking what we do with this anger, fear, disappointment, and frustration. This “MAD” that we feel??? —but, alas, I only have one more minute.

And with it. This last minute of our conversation I’d like to tell you that…though it may seem that all is lost…that there is a generation of dreamers, fighters, defenders, lovers, builders bubbling, bubbling, bubbling beneath the rubble.

And beneath your feet you may feel a collective quaking…tremors of a sleeping giant awakening. Emanating from fault lines at the Arizona-Mexico border, and Raleigh and Austin, and Cleveland, and Chicago, and Tallahassee, Florida.

And we’ve come here from every crack, crease, and crevice of our country to our Capitol to say that for all whose cares have been our concern. We will not be co-opted. We will not be bought. But, we are ready.

And for those that doubt our energy and discipline. We are ready.

For those that believe that future fingers may fail the torch. Fear not. We are ready.

For all those that believe in the power of nonviolence and love as unconquerable. We are ready.

Fifty years ago a man told us of a Promised Land. And for 50 years we’ve wandered and wondered. Where are the youth?…a constant whisper in our ears.

And so we have come, asking neither permission nor questions, but to say that we are here. Believing indeed that we have a beautiful history, and that the one we will build in the future will astonish the world.

And we are ready.

May the outcome always prosper over income. Peace over Profit. Revolution over revenue and all peace and power to the people. Don’t believe us. Just watch.


Sofia Campos

My name is Sofia Campos: born in Peru, raised in California, soon to start my first day of graduate school at MIT. My family and I are undocumented; we have limited if any legal rights in this country we’ve known for over 17 years. My parents gave their all so I could reach for my dreams, and in turn I graduated from UCLA and committed myself to fighting for a more just, humane world. I fought with immigrant youth for Deferred Action in the footsteps of Martin Luther King and Ella Baker, and now my mom sleeps better knowing my siblings and I are a little safer, even though she is not.

The Civil Rights Movement fought for our dignity, regardless of skin color, and in today’s immigration fight we still fight for that same human dignity—my mom cannot visit her mom abroad before she dies because she would not be allowed to come back and see me. Mothers and daughters like us deserve the Inalienable Right to hug each other and feel safe in our homes without fearing ICE or the police, but this is not the case when our communities continue to be dismantled by senseless, inhumane policies like Secure Communities and the current 400,000 deportation quota in DHS. This must stop, just like segregation policies were made to stop in the 1960s.

Youth have asked ourselves what we can do for our country, and we are doing it through organizing and actions of civil disobedience. 

President Obama, we must stop the mass deportations and incarceration of our communities, feeding corporate profit day after day. We do not need more drones and militarism around our borders—that is exactly what Martin Luther King warned against! In addition to racism and materialism. 

We are raising our voices so not one more father is needlessly incarcerated and not one more LGBT person is unjustly excluded. So not one more black boy is gunned down, and not one more daughter has to live without saying goodbye to her mother. My mother and grandmother deserve to say goodbye. 

“We who believe in freedom take care of each other, and if we do not rise, we will all fall.” –Isang Bagsak

Phil Agnew is the Executive Director of the Dream Defenders and Sofia Campos is the Board Chair of United We Dream.